“One Person at a Time, One Group at a Time”: The North Central Mass Health Equity Partnership Hosts CHIP Charrette for the Betterment of Community Health

The North Central Mass Health Equity Partnership (HEP) hosted a charrette on March 24, 2023. The event, Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP), invited several guests to get together for engaging activities and to spark a conversation and discussion about community health improvement.

Designed to bridge a community’s most pressing needs and an ideal vision of North Central Massachusetts, the charrette explored what defines a healthy community, what could topple a healthy community, and what steps need to happen in order to bring a healthy community into fruition.

One of the activities proposed by The Health Equity Partnership asked attendees to form into groups and discuss an ideal scenario: If the HEP were to appear on a news headline in 10 years displaying a major accomplishment, what would be the headline?

Another activity asked guests to build a representation of a poor health care system with a pile of dominos that were in the center of the table.

Irene Hernandez, an attendee at the event, took the lead and built domino structures that were connected by standing dominos and that led to another domino structure that had already crumbled.

Hernandez explained that the health care system is a delicate thing, and that when one thing fails, it can lead to failure of another. Hernandez went into detail about how instead of fixing the fatal flaws, more fragile and poor health care systems are built to take the place of failed infrastructure, creating a destructive cycle of crumbling health care systems.

The activity that ended the evening involved a circle of nine prompts. These prompts included things like better transportation, more career opportunities, less racism, more health services, and asked participants to deliberate on whether or not the improvement of one prompt could lead to the improvement of another.

A clear correlation between prompts would be signaled with a solid arrow, an unsure correlation would be signaled with a dotted arrow, and zero correlation would be signaled with no arrow.

One of the participants, Dr. Delores Burroughs-Biron, is a board certified family practice physician, as well as a master’s prepared nurse.

Dr. Burroughs-Biron showed appreciation for the charrette’s organizers as well as for the diversity of perspectives that came from the people in attendance.

“I think it’s been fantastic. I think there are so many different voices here, so many different perspectives,” she said. “You get a sense working with this group—and being part of this set—everyone’s voice is respected, and that they believe in what they do. They’re committed to equity and justice.”

Dr. Burroughs-Biron then went into detail about how this commitment to equity and justice is able to surpass the language barrier.

“I really liked the gentleman who came up with the idea that racism is driving all of this. It’s the nucleus,” said Dr. Burroughs-Biron. “He was coming from a perspective of not being an English as a first language speaker, and he just got up there and said exactly what this thing was all about.”

Although there were people who were non-native English speakers, a desire to participate in the activities was present and encouraged throughout the evening. Participants and event organizers would take time out of their discussion to translate and incorporate these non-native English speakers into the discussion, livening up the debate and presenting different perspectives and ideas into the mix.

Although Dr. Burroughs-Biron expressed an uncertainty in the effectiveness of events like this one at a larger scale, she also expressed an importance in trying and persevering.

“On a larger scale, it’s a little hard to accomplish, but then how do we typically get things going?” she said. “One person at a time, one group at a time, until it spreads out.”